Wednesday, December 31, 2008

The Weather Outside is Frightful . . .

Snow is falling rather heavily. The forecast is for up to 10 inches. And of course, I'm supposed to be hosting a dinner party tonight for 10 people. The good thing is that the invitees are all local, so there's not really any travel involved. The snow should be ending about the time the party begins, so if I keep my fingers crossed, it should all work out. If worst comes to worst, we can just have the party tomorrow night. My menu is easy, and can be put off. The main entree is a super easy and delicious! I'm just going to double this -

Roasted Chicken, Sausage, and Potatoes
Serves 6

6 chicken breasts (the real thing, with bones and some skin)
1 lb sweet Italian sausage, cut into 1 inch pieces
6 potatoes, quartered
1 tsp oregano
1 tsp thyme
1 tsp paprika
1/2 tsp garlic powder
1 tsp salt
1/2 tsp black pepper
1/4 cup olive oil

Mix seasonings together. Spray a shallow roasting pan with a nonstick spray. Layer potatoes on the bottom of the pan, and sprinkle with half the seasoning mixture. Cover potatoes with sausage and chicken. Pour olive oil over all; sprinkle rest of seasonings on top. Cover pan with foil and bake at 425° for 1 hour. Uncover, lower oven to 375° and bake for another 30 minutes or until browned.

I'm serving this with a broccoli salad, glazed carrots, cranberry sauce, and rolls. My guests are bringing the munchies and the dessert. I like the way our group of friends celebrates --- someone offers the house and does the main part of the meal, and the guests bring the hors d'oeuvres and desserts. Everything is casual, relaxed and enjoyable.

Monday, December 29, 2008

Back to Normal?

Life is back to normal - or what passes for normal around here! A typical Christmas break Monday is in store. I am enjoying my first cup of coffee, just after 8 am. When I'm through with blogging and reading emails, I'll eat a light breakfast, and then start in on some long overdue housework. My plan today is to declutter the living room, and dust and vacuum in there. We're hosting a casual party on New Year's Eve, so some spit and polish could be useful there. I may also do the same in the dining room today. Tomorrow I'll get the shopping done and tackle the bathroom. I will head in early afternoon westward over to the nearest shopping city in this southwest corner of the state, and use a Borders gift certificate, collect a repaired piece of jewelry from the jewelers, and find some grosgrain ribbon to face the button bands of the sweater I'm finishing. Then I'll meet my DH at home and we'll go to our 5 pm water aerobics class. Somewhere today I'll have to drop off my library books at the library too since they're due today.

There is still so much cleanup to accomplish from the ice storm. Our yard is littered with the remains of trees, as our roadsides. The warm weather and rain the last couple of days has removed quite a bit of the 2 ft of snow we received last weekend so the debris is being uncovered. What a mess! It's hard to believe that we lost power for so long. It's a good wake up call for us all. What always shines through is that despite all the apparent evidence to the contrary, people are kind, thoughtful, and generous. Neighbors really do look out for each other, and people share their resources with others who need them when push comes to shove.

Friday, December 26, 2008

Book #105

I had a goal of reading 50 books this year. I hit that goal early on, so set it for 100. I must admit that most of my reading is candy. But it's a major way for me to relax and escape, so it's cheap therapy!! I've been introduced recently to the China Bayles mystery series by Susan Wittig Albert. Here's the 3rd book in the series which starts with Thyme of Death, and Witches' Bane.

Hangman's Root (China Bayles Mystery, Book 3) Hangman's Root by Susan Wittig Albert

My review

rating: 4 of 5 stars
I am enjoying this mystery series. China Bayles is an ex-attorney turned herb shop owner in a small Texas town. She is enjoying life now that she's stepped out of the fast lane. She has several good friends, and a developing relationship with Mike McQuaid, an cop who also has retired from the field and now teaches at the local college. In this installment, China investigates the murder of a prominent science professor at the local college and tries to clear the name of another professor who's been accused of the crime. While I guessed the identity of the real murderer, there were enough plot twists to surprise me. I'm now looking for #4 --- my library has to get them on interlibrary loan.

View all my reviews.

Wednesday, December 24, 2008


12:16 pm Dec. 24th

The lights came back on. Thirteen days without electricity. How vulnerable we are!

It's now 2:30 pm. Two loads of wash done, Christmas morning pound cake is in the oven, Swedish meatballs are simmering in the crockpot. Our Los Angeles son is home, and our Rhode Island son is on the way. Now it can be Christmas.

Thanks all of you who have kept me in your thoughts and prayers.

Tuesday, December 23, 2008

A Different Sort of Waiting

Advent is about waiting, anticipation, and preparation. Waiting for the birth of a Baby, anticipating the Gift of Love, and preparing room in my heart and life for this great Gift.

This year my Advent has been highjacked by a different sort of waiting. I am literally waiting for light, and electricity. I am growing impatient, cranky, and much more full of self-pity than I care to admit. I know there's a sermon in this somewhere . . .but I'm too annoyed to find it.

There are still about 3000 of us without power, 12 days after the storm. We are tired of filling generators, using laundramats and friends' homes for showers and laundry, tired of "camp-style" meals, tired of the generator's noise and gas odors, tired of the inconvenience. Even though we know we are relatively safe, relatively warm, and not going hungry, we are inconvenienced enough to be cranky and annoyed. Many of us have had to put our holiday plans on hold --- no baking, no special meals, no lights on the tree or in the windows of our homes.

If I could just focus on the coming of God's Light, instead of human's light, I'd be a happier woman.

Monday, December 22, 2008

Tis the Season

For a change of pace from my recent tales of woe:

Welcome to the Christmas edition of getting to know your friends. Okay, here's
what you're supposed to do, and try not to be a SCROOGE!!! Just copy (not
forward) this entire email and paste into your blog (or even an email)Change
all the answers so that they apply to you. Let me know if you play!

Tis the Season to be NICE!

1. Wrapping paper or gift bags?
I use both --- usually gift bags for people to whom I'm personally bringing gifts. Wrapping paper for gifts I'm mailing. I recycle gift bags!

2. Real tree or Artificial?

Definitely real, and only balsam fir need apply. Our tree is always nice and fresh, about 8 feet tall.

3. When do you put up the tree?

I like to get it up about by Dec. 15th, but the last two years has been the weekend before Christmas.

4. When do you take the tree down?

We usually take it down on Epiphany - there are 12 Days of Christmas, after all, and I was taught to wait til the Three Kings came on Jan. 6th.

5. Do you like eggnog?

Yes. Especially with rum or whisky!

6. Favorite gift received as a child?

I can't name one --- I always loved my presents, and usually got what I really wanted. I think I loved opening my stocking the most.

7. Hardest person to buy for?

Definitely my husband. He doesn't ever ask for things, doesn't have a hobby, and is the kind of person that if he needs something, he goes and gets it when he needs it. My younger son is getting hard now too.

8. Easiest person to buy for?

Anyone who gives me a list, or who has a definite hobby. Every year though I have the problem of finding lots of perfect gifts for one person on my list, and nothing for anyone else!

9. Do you have a nativity scene?

I have 3. A small stained glass one my sister sent me one year, a traditional creche with fixed figures, and my favorite - the Willow Tree Nativity my mom bought me the only time she came to spend Christmas with me.

10. Mail or email Christmas cards?

I mail cards. I don't particularly like email cards, because I can't hang them up as part of my decor.

11. Worst Christmas gift you ever received?

A guitar when I was in college. I wanted a record player (portable stereo) for my dorm room. My father bought me a guitar --- my sister wanted one, and he got a deal. He bought each of a guitar. I never even tried to play it.

12. Favorite Christmas Movie?

I absolutely love The Christmas Story --- the one where Ralph wants the beebee gun. "You'll shoot your eye out!!" I hate "It's a Wonderful Life,". I do like the original, Miracle on 34th Street.

13. When do you start shopping for Christmas?.

I make a half-hearted attempt to do some shopping in late summer or early fall. I say half-hearted, because it's not usually intentional. A friend and I go outlet shopping a couple of times a year, and I will sometimes make an effort to look for gifts then. Most of my shopping is done between Thanksgiving and Christmas, and 90% of it is done on-line. I abhor malls.

14. Have you ever recycled a Christmas present?

I don't think so.

15. Favorite thing to eat at Christmas?

Cookies -- Ginger crinkles, cranberry almond biscotti, Mrs. Greenhill's shortbread, and my sister's butter cookies. And for Christmas breakfast -- Best Buttermilk Poundcake from my mom's recipe files via Farm Journal.

16. Lights on the tree?

Definitely -- small, multi-colored, and non-blinking.

17. Favorite Christmas song?

Depends on what mood I'm in. I favor traditional carols. I love O Holy Night, Do You Hear What I Hear, and Angels We Have Heard On High. Joy to the World, too. My favorite Christmas recording is a very old record --- from the 60's The Harry Simone Choir. I loved the traditional carols, and the scripture passages quoted between the songs. I also love an Ed Ames Christmas album from that time period also.

18. Travel at Christmas or stay home?

Usually stay home. When the kids were really young, we would travel to my parents' in Indiana, but once they got school age we stayed home. Santa had a really hard time then.

19. Can you name all of Santa's reindeer's?


20. Angel on the tree top or a star?

Definitely a star. We sing: "Last year on top of our Christmas tree, we had a lovely star. It made us think of the wise men three, traveling from afar."

21. Open the presents Christmas Eve or Christmas morning?

As kids we opened one tiny present on Christmas eve, but oh, Christmas morning!!! It would start with our stockings. Santa left them outside our bedroom doors, or at the foot of our beds. We were allowed to stay in our rooms and open them. We would have to wait for our parents to wake up before we were allowed downstairs to see what Santa had brought. Santa was always more than generous with presents for 5 kids. He brought unwrapped gifts that were spread around the tree. We also had a huge pile of wrapped gifts from our parents, aunts, each other. With 7 people the mound was huge. We took turns opening gifts, one at a time, and the opening would last several hours. We still open presents on Christmas morning. But it's only 4 of us, and we have pared down the parcels over the years. . . .My parents didn't buy us much throughout the year, but they more than made up for it at Christmas.

22. Most annoying thing about this time of the year?

Christmas commercials and decorations that are up before pumpkins and Pilgrims.

23. Favorite ornament theme or color?

Our ornaments are eclectic and often sentimemtal rather than traditionally beautiful. Their beauty is in their memories.

24. Favorite for Christmas dinner?

For Christmas Eve --- Swedish meatballs and egg noodles.
For Christmas Day --- a rare roast of beef --- either a standing rib roast or other luxury cut.

25. What do you want for Christmas this year?

Right now? Electricity!

26. Who is most likely to respond to this?

My blogging friends.

Merry Christmas!

Sunday, December 21, 2008

I'm Trying to Stay Positive

This is getting old. We are into Day 10 of Life with a Generator. I'm very glad that we purchased one several years ago, but when we purchased it we were thinking it was for those power outages of 12-24 hours. Not 10 days. We are fortunate because the generator runs the oil furnace and our well pump. Our hot water is through the furnace so we are warm and clean. We have a few lights -- in the bathroom, one in the dining half of the kitchen, and one in the living room. We have an outlet that works in the kitchen too, so we can plug in a crockpot, or electric skillet, or the coffee maker. Just not all at once. I can't boil water, though, so no noodles, spaghetti, rice, or worst of all -- no tea. I do drink both tea and coffee --- I NEED coffee in the am, but in the afternoon, I crave a cup of strong Earl Grey or Ginger Peach black tea. I'd love a bowl of oatmeal for breakfast too --- or a soft-boiled egg. I know that my husband, God bless him, is getting tired of the daily trips to the gas station to buy the gas that powers the generator. I should be thankful that gas prices have dropped since we need to buy 10 gallons of gas a day to run the generator. He has to fill the generator twice a day too. We got 10 inches of snow Friday, and the forecast for today is 12-18 inches, plus they've posted a wind advisory. We went out EARLY to get the gas, and to stock up on one-pot meal ingredients. I splurged and bought some Walker's shortbread. I always make shortbread for Christmas, so at least this way, I have something, even if it's not "Mrs. Greenhill's Shortbread." (a recipe from my sister's 1960's 3rd grade classroom cookbook). We did see evidence at last that the power crews have reached our region of NH. We did see lines of repair crews -- just not in our immediate neighborhood. As we passed the crews I sent waves of mental telepathy beaming my address to them. But I also know that we all need relief, so I'm not TOO jealous . . .The other good news is that finally our town has made the power restoration list with an estimated date of 95% repairs of 12/22. I'm just keeping my fingers crossed that we're in the 95%, but my husband is telling me not to get my hopes up. So, I'm trying not to get too optimistic. . . .

Saturday, December 20, 2008

Ever Wonder How Jesus Spent His Youth?

Try reading this book!

Lamb: The Gospel According to Biff, Christ's Childhood Pal Lamb: The Gospel According to Biff, Christ's Childhood Pal by Christopher Moore

My review

rating: 5 of 5 stars
I loved this book! It's funny, serious, provoking, interesting, and not at all sacrilegious. How did Jesus spend his youth? What's the "true" story behind some of his parables? Biff, (otherwise known as Levi) narrates this life of his best friend, Joshua (Aramaic for Jesus, the Greek rendering) and traces their adventures from Nazareth to China, to India, and back again, and on to Jerusalem and the Crucifixion. Joshua and Biff journey to study with each of the 3 wise men, and then come back to Galilee in time for Jesus to start his ministry. The author states "This story is not and never was meant to challenge anyone's faith; however,if one's faith can be shaken by stories in a humorous novel, one may have a bit more praying to do." p. 443. I say "Amen" to that!

View all my reviews.

Friday, December 19, 2008

Friday Five: Countdown to Christmas Edition

From Songbird at RevGalPals

It's true.

There are only five full days before Christmas Day, and whether you use them for shopping, wrapping, preaching, worshiping, singing or traveling or even wishing the whole darn thing were over last Tuesday, there's a good chance they will be busy ones.

So let's make this easy, if we can: tell us five things you need to accomplish before Christmas Eve.

So much of what I "need" to do is dependent on whether or not we get power back! So this is a mix of what I think I need to do, what I have to do, and what I want to do.

1. A must: Get clean sheets on the beds for my sons. The last time the beds were used, they were not stripped when the guest left --- one of the those things I was going to get to later. Since I can't use my washer I will have to trek them down to the laundramat sometime before Tuesday. I'm waiting til almost the last minute as I'm ever optimistic that maybe "today will be the day" the power returns. I guess I could go buy some new sheets, too.

2. A must if the party is still on: Make a dessert for a dinner party we're invited to on Saturday night. I have a no-bake dessert in mind, and I have the ingredients --- An Icebox Cake. You take chocolate wafers and whipped cream and assemble a cake with them and refrigerate for a few hours before serving. I'm planning to crush candy canes (the ones I bought for my students, but don't need now that there's no school til Jan. 5th) into the whipped cream. I also need to be sure I can find my hand-powered eggbeater to whip the cream. However, we're supposed to get 12 plus inches of snow tonight, and so many of us don't have power, that we might postpone the party.

3. Finish purchasing stocking stuffers for my sons' and husband's stockings.

4. Plan (and purchase) an alternate Christmas menu if we don't have power. It's kind of hard to cook a rib roast without an oven. Needless to say the Christmas baking is out.

5. Purchase and decorate a tree. No lights this year. Last year at this time I had pneumonia. My husband purchased the tree, but I never had the strength to do more than get the lights on it. This year, I plan to decorate, but have pretty much decided against putting the lights on it. Doesn't seem to make sense!!

6. I know we only needed 5 things: I need to find my Christmas spirit --- I was struggling even before the ice storm. I am not ready inside to celebrate the Gift that is given.

Thursday, December 18, 2008

Day 6 - Ice Storm Aftermath

I had a few moments of frustration and tears yesterday when I logged on to the power company's website and learned it might be next week before we get our power back. I'm mostly concerned about Christmas. My sons are coming home from RI and Los Angeles, and I won't be able to provide the traditional meals -- Swedish meatballs and egg noodles on Christmas Eve, and a rib roast on Christmas day. No "Best Buttermilk Pound Cake" for Christmas breakfast, and worst of all, no ginger crinkles, "Mrs. Greenhill's Shortbread", or "Crissie's Sugar Cookies". I'm very frustrated that I can't do any baking. So for a few minutes, I indulged myself in a good pity party.

But, I am over that. I am so very deep down grateful for what I do have -- heat, hot water, and some light. I have an extended vacation - our schools are shut down til Jan 5th. I can get out to stores. I can go to a laundramat. I am able to offer hot showers to some folks who don't have hot water.

For us, this IS a major inconvenience, and a major disruption of our holiday plans. But that's all it is. When I think of all the folks in the world who live in conditions worse than this I realize how selfish my frustation is. When I think of all the people whose lives were torn apart by disasters like Katrina, I feel ashamed.

We're safe, we're healthy, we have inventive minds. We will create memories of Christmas 2008.

Here are some pictures. There is a terrible beauty in the ice too. Click on the photo to enlarge.

From December 12 2008 ICE STORM

From December 12 2008 ICE STORM

From December 12 2008 ICE STORM

From December 12 2008 ICE STORM

From December 12 2008 ICE STORM

From December 12 2008 ICE STORM

From December 12 2008 ICE STORM

Wednesday, December 17, 2008


One of the books I've read during the ICE STORM AFTERMATH:

I Shall Not Want I Shall Not Want by Julia Spencer-Fleming

My review

rating: 5 of 5 stars
This series just gets better and better! I think the author does a superb job of creating realistic characters. They are flawed, but "good" people, just like most of us. While most of us don't find ourselves in the kinds of situations that Claire Fergusson ends up in, (after all this IS fiction), the depiction of her relationship with Russ Van Alstyne, and her struggle to find her calling as a priest seems extremely realistic, and this is what drives my interest.

View all my reviews.


We're in Day 5 of Survivor:Ice Storm. We were hit on Thursday/Friday with an inch or so of ice covering everything. It brought down just about every power line, topping poles, and downing 1000's of trees. We have been without power since 2 am Friday morning. Fortunately we have a generator that provides us with heat, water (we have a well), refrigeration, a few lights and outlets through which I can run the computer, a crockpot, a coffee maker, and/or an electric skillet. Our phone line went down sometime early Saturday morning and was restored today. I have dial up internet so I can get on-line again. We haven't received any word yet as to when our power will be restored. I can't complain because I have my basic necessities - and I can read and knit. Our schools have been cancelled until Jan. 5th giving us 7 extra vacation days. I've always wanted the week before Christmas off -- I just wish I could do my baking! I'd also like to be able to do laundry. This storm is unprecedented ----- almost 70% of our roads were impassable for several days due to trees and wires across them. We lost many trees. Fortunately none of them hit our house. It's incredible to see how vulnerable we are ---- businesses were unable to open, the grocery store had to throw out most of the perishable food. While most roads are open, you have to drive slowly watching for dangling wires, leaning poles, and limbs. We had a huge branch dangling from the wires that cross our road in front of our house until yesterday. Large vehicles couldn't pass without hitting it. That's the main reason why schools are closed --- the buses can't get down more than 50% of the back roads. It is just unbelievable.

Tuesday, December 9, 2008


Here is book #100 -

Incantation Incantation by Alice Hoffman

My review

rating: 4 of 5 stars
This gripping novel is set in 16th century Spain. The Spanish Inquisition has reached 16 year old Estrella deMadrigal's village. The short, but intense story follows Estrella as she comes to terms with the betrayal of a friend, as well as the betrayal of all she thought she knew. I would recommend this novel to older students (8th grade and up).

View all my reviews.

Sunday, December 7, 2008

#99 and a Few More Items Crossed Off my List

I got all the window candles in place and I think all the timers are set. I also did a bit of school work, and managed to do some baking. And I finished book #99 while eating breakfast!

Aunt Dimity Goes West (Aunt Dimity) Aunt Dimity Goes West by Nancy Atherton

My review

rating: 2 of 5 stars
Not the best book in the series. Not terrible, but not particularly attention-holding either. Lorie is vacationing with her boys in the Colorado Rockies to recuperate from her near miss with death in the previous book. There's really no mystery to solve, no moral dilemma to resolve, and not much of a plot. It's almost as though the author was recuperating too!

View all my reviews.

Progress Report

I actually made quite a dent in my list yesterday. I finished all the items under the first 2 categories, and knit 3 inches on the back of the sweater I've started. I even managed to put a holiday tablecloth on my kitchen table, and I vacuumed the rug that's under that table. I couldn't stand the gritty crunch underfoot anymore!

My husband's off to the grocery store, and when he returns I will start the baking. Each grade level (6-8), plus the Unified Arts and Special Ed teams, rotate turns for taking care of the teachers' room. We also provide occasional treats for the rest of the staff. Our team decided to provide a hot drinks buffet every day -- not as difficult as it sounds. We have a huge coffee urn that's used to heat water and we have a huge selection of teas, cocoa, and flavored instant coffees. There are 8 of us on the team A(when we include the associates) and 4 Mondays this month, so we paired off and pair is bringing in some treats on our chosen Monday. I'm bringing a couple of loaves of home-made banana cranberry bread and a home-made poundcake, and my partner is bringing a fruit tray and some veggies and dip. I've actually got the banana breads done and just need to do the pound cake.

I just realized I need to find the Christmas cards I bought on sale last year for this year. I'm also searching unsuccessfully for my box of Christmas CD's. I have almost 50 of them, and they've gone missing!! Hmmm. If you were a crate of Cd's and someone actually got organized enough to store them in a logical place, where would that logical place be?? I have a faint recollection of having a brilliant idea last July when I was in an organization mode, and I put them somewhere out of sight, but logical. Don't suggest a closet --- my house came with only one closet. (It's an OLD house).

Well, on to some more items on my list.

Saturday, December 6, 2008

My TO DO List for the Weekend


For my husband's business:

1. The monthly billing (it's a week late)
2. Balance the books

For the educational association (I'm secretary/treasurer)

1. Type minutes from last board meeting
2. Reconcile state association bill with district deduction list
3. Monthly financial report for Thursday's meeting


1. Pay bills
2. Balance checkbook


1. Check students' Renzulli portfolios and project plans
2. Plan grammar lessons for the week
3. Bake treats for Monday's faculty room (each grade level takes a month to
provide treats


1. Talk to moderator about next week's congregational meeting.



1. Wrap long-distance gifts and package so they can be shipped
2. Order or buy rest of long-distance gifts
3. Buy Christmas tree
4. Put up window lights and outdoor lights
5. Get out my nativity set


1. Return pants to JCPenny
2. Take ring to jewelry store for repair


1. Knit
2. Finish book #99
3. Go to church fair and take the holiday house tour


1. Wash kitchen floor
2. change the sheets
3. Vacuum downstairs

Maybe I should just give up now!!!

Thursday, December 4, 2008

Almost There! #97 and #98

I'm almost to my goal of 100 books in 2008.

Chat Chat by Archer Mayor

My review

rating: 3 of 5 stars
It's a good entry in the Joe Gunther series. I haven't read the Joe Gunther series in a while, so it was good to get re-acquainted. This was a gripping mystery-suspense up to the last few chapters where it seemed to lose steam. I enjoyed it anyway.

View all my reviews.

Trojan Gold: A Vicky Bliss Mystery (Book 4) Trojan Gold: A Vicky Bliss Mystery by Elizabeth Peters

My review

rating: 3 of 5 stars
I am an ardent fan of Elizabeth Peters' Amelia Peabody series, but I don't remember reading any novels featuring Vicky Bliss before. On the down side, this isn't the first book in the series, so there seemed to be a great deal of backstory that I've missed. On the up side, the book made me laugh in several places. It is a mystery-adventure, and there is murder and mayhem, but there's farce too. A nice escape!

View all my reviews.